Potter’s Road: The one-man act prepares for his Hollywood routine
Island resident Andrew Potter is getting ready to take his everevolving project – “The Road to High Street” – on the road. He plans to present his one-man multimedia show to the crowds at June’s Hollywood Fringe Festival in California.
Potter, who grew up in Portsmouth, has lived in Jamestown for the last five years. He began his career as an entertainer while he was attending the University of Rhode Island in the late 1970s. He got a job playing music and performing with a children’s theater company called Circus Wagon Theater in Providence. At around the same time he met Wheeler Cole – they began to perform together as the High Street Circus.
After about five years of working together as the High Street Circus, Potter and Cole had a meeting with the Flying Karamazov Brothers, a Californian juggling and comedy troupe that has been performing since 1973.
Inspired by the meeting, Potter and Cole decided to move to California to work as street performers. Their career took off – they began to perform all around California. Then they went national. They even took their act to Japan.
“It was a juggling show,” Potter said. “We did unicycle riding, club passing, comedy, music and fire eating. There was a lot of audience interaction.”
The High Street Circus stayed together for 15 years. When the duo split, Potter moved back East and got his master’s degree in theater production. He worked on video production for the next 10 years before deciding to resume his performing career.
Potter wasn’t particularly interested in juggling anymore. He was inspired by a performer he had seen in San Francisco who told stories and rolled video segments into his performance, creating a multimedia storytelling show.
“I was very inspired and I thought I would try to do something like that,” Potter said. “He used a lot of comedy in his show, and he featured a lot of offbeat characters, artists who he knew. It was really the first time that I saw video used in an artistic and entertaining kind of way.”
Potter began to work on a project for which he would create fiveminute stories, which were accompanied by original music and video segments. The stories were about his career as a street performer.
“The Road to High Street,” which is described as a digital rock-and-roll comedy, is Potter’s latest project. The presentation finds Potter seated at a microphone with a guitar, telling stories of his days in the High Street Circus, with musical and video segments interspersed throughout the performance. The video includes footage of the final performance of the High Street Circus, which took place at First Night Providence in 1998, as well as video that Potter shot of other street performers.
“The finale of my show now is a video of a bunch of different street performers which is put to music,” Potter said.
“The Road to High Street” was first performed in 2000 and it has been evolving ever since. Because the show has so much going on in terms of technology, it has taken Potter some time to get it to all work properly in the live setting. The performance requires video projectors and screens. Controlling all of the varied aspects of the performance has taken some time for Potter.
“It’s been only in the last two years that I’ve been pushing this to the forefront and trying to make it happen,” Potter said.
Since the debut of the piece, Potter has performed it locally at AS220 in Providence and at the Northeast Storytelling Conference, which was held in Warwick. “The Road To High Street” has also been performed at the Wilmington Fringe Festival in Delaware, the Digital Storytelling Festival in Sedona, Ariz., and Kenyon Hall in Seattle.
One challenge that Potter faces is that most venues aren’t prepared for the multimedia nature of his piece. “This is not an easy plugin to venues,” he said. “If you call a venue, they know what a folk music act is, they know what a band is, they know what a standup comic is, and they know what showing a film is. But when I say I’m going to talk and I’m going to sing, and I’m going to play guitar, and I’m going to roll video, and I’m going to interact with the video, and I’ve got projection and audio mixing – they don’t know how to plug that in.”
The show opens at the Hollywood Fringe Festival on June 7 for five performances. Potter hopes that there will be more performances in the future. “I’m hoping to find a venue or a network where I don’t have to do all of the footwork,” he said. “I haven’t quite figured out what the right venue is.”
One of the things that Potter hopes that audiences will take away from his performance is the inspiration to follow their dreams. “I have a running theme in the show of forging your own path rather than what might be expected of you.”